In the different interviews I’ve given, the interviewee has asked the question, “What caused you to explore the need to forgive your dad?” I briefly share that the catalyst was our oldest son. When he rebelled against everything we’d taught him, the worst in me came out. It is hard to say if I ever would have examined the source of my rage, if not for him.
Driven by Dread
At the young age of fifteen, our son began deceiving and defying our authority. When given consequences, they were not respected, rather they were ignored. During those tumultuous years, he brought out my worst. Yet, as awful, embarrassing and uncomfortable as my upended life looked and felt, my season of emotional discomfort was necessary. Without it, I never would have been humbled. Without humility, I never would have examined my motives or my actions.
Growing up, my family had already tagged me as a worrywart. It was not an endearing term. I’d always been aware of the constant unrest that simmered just below the surface of my life. But, fretting felt benign compared to dread.
Dread is a heavy word. Like sludge, muck, or mire that collects in water pipes, undetected dread accumulates, resulting in emotional difficulties. Though we may not be fully aware, actions driven by dread are usually desperate actions. We want nothing more than to free ourselves from the discomfort.
I suppose it all began when I first held my newborn son in my arms and promised to him to keep him safe from all danger. A seemingly harmless, heartfelt promise. Yet, this pledge was also powerful. Unconsciously, the older he grew the more I wanted to take charge of his life so that I could keep him out of harm’s way.
When he rebelled, I was filled with dread and took desperate actions to guard his life. As far as I was concerned, he was in danger and it was up to me to keep my promise and protect him.
But, he saw no need for my protection and my anger toward his resistance frightened me and changed nothing about him.
Eventually, I came to my senses. My desperate actions were fueled by the dread of losing my son. I realized that I needed to relinquish control and allow natural consequences to have their way. As contradictory as it felt to do so, that’s what I finally did.
When I told this story to an audience, I was asked how my relationship is with my son today. I am grateful to say, he does not hold anything against me and as a father of two children, he now understands.
Why bother considering what we dread? When we evaluate our fear, anguish and anxiety, we might discover the reason for our reckless, rash and frenzied actions. Our revelation, in turn, may lead to a change of relationship for us.